A geographic information system (GIS) is a digital system for capturing, managing, analysing and displaying all forms of spatial data – data that is in some way referenced to a location.
Common geographical references within the British Isles are addresses and/or postcodes (WC1B 4SE, for example) or British National Grid coordinates (such as 530397, 181701). Traditionally, five core components are required to establish a GIS. They are:
- Hardware – the computer which runs the GIS software (a PC, mobile device or server, for instance)
- Software – the application software used to store, analyse, and display geographic data (off the shelf or developed for specific purposes)
- Data – consists of spatial data (co-ordinates) and attribute data (additional information about the location)
- People – users who understand GIS concepts and how to apply the technology to real world problems
- Procedures – applications of geographic information to real world problem solving.
GIS software solutions vary greatly in complexity, from a single user with GIS software installed on their desktop PC, to tailored server and cloud-based GIS services that are fully integrated into an organisation’s business-critical systems.
A huge variety of sectors use GIS software, ranging from utilities (to manage supply networks) to police forces (to analyse crime hot spots). Within Sport England, GIS is used within the Active Places Power and Market Segmentation websites and also internally for ad hoc mapping and analysis.